A World War One Short Story

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I wrote this a few years ago to pay tribute to the seven hundred thousand Tommys’ who didn’t come home…

~~~

Runner’s Gauntlet

Albert Johnstone and his pal Dick Madison had both enlisted at the same time, barely twelve weeks after war had been declared in 1914. At the time, Dick was nineteen and Albert was barely eighteen. Since then three long and bitterly hard fought years had passed in the ‘war to end all wars’. It was now 1917 and by sheer good fortune more than anything else in the corner of hell they called home, Albert and Dick were now the only two left alive from the newly formed ‘pals regiment’ that had marched to war in that first year.

To any newcomer to their section, both men seemed much older than they actually were. The last five weeks of constant barrage by the Hun artillery plus the filth, trench foot, body lice and chronic diarrhoea which everyone was subjected to in this small section of the trench, which they called home, had prematurely aged both men.

~~~

“Give us a fag mate?”

“Ain’t got any left Dickie,” Albert replied.

Dick lifted his Lee Enfield’s muzzle to his eye to check the cleanliness of its barrel. The section Corporal, Charlie Hobbs, had just threatened to put him on a fizzer if he didn’t do something about the state of his filthy weapon. “Bleedin stripes on his arm have gone to his bleedin head,” Dick mumbled to himself. “Go on Bert mate, give us a fag,” he pleaded once more, as he yanked on the string of his rifle pull-through once more, “You can have my extra tin of Bully for a fag, go on give us one.” Dick knew that his best mate Albert always had some spare cigarettes stashed away somewhere, deep inside the filthy confines of his clothing, competing for space against his skin with the thousands of body lice that constantly plagued him, which he reserved for those quiet moments during ‘stand to’ at night when they took turns on watch from the trenches’ firing step.

~~~

“Johnstone and Madison, over here. Quickly now – jump to it my lucky lads!” Albert and Dick waded through the fetid water that sat in the bottom of the trench, hiding the wooden duckboards along its length, dodging the huge rats that were swimming along looking for scraps of food, or to feed on the unburied human remains that still lay where they had died.

“Bleedin furry cannibals,” Albert muttered as he smashed the butt of his rifle into one of the rats. Eventually both men stopped in front of Sergeant ‘Bull’ Thomas.

“Got a job for you me lucky lads,” Bull grinned coldly.

“Bleedin hell Sarge – not again, why us, why not someone else?” Dick muttered out loud.

“Now then Madison, watch yer lip! Corporal Hobbs tells me you’re a filthy little bleeder my son. So pin your bleedin lugholes back and shut yer trap unless you want that bleedin fizzer he’s already threatened you with to bleedin multiply!”

Despite all of his bluster, Sergeant Thomas had a soft spot for his two most experienced soldiers. Like Albert and Dick, he had been here in the hell of the Western Front since it first began. Like them, somehow he survived when so many thousands of their fellow Tommies had not. “Now then me lads; as I was saying, I’ve got a job for you. The major needs a couple of runners to take a very important message back to HQ, because the bleedin telephone lines is broke again after the last bleedin barrage. I knows just the very lads for the job, sir, I says to him; Privates’ Johnstone and Madison I says. So my lucky lads, there it is.”

Albert and Dick’s faces, despite the thick layer of ingrained grime and dirt that plastered their skin, giving them the appearance of two men in late middle age, betrayed their natural lack of enthusiasm for being volunteered for something that in all likely-hood would prove to be far more dangerous than remaining here in the trench. “Like I said Sarge, why us when there’s plenty of new replacements to detail off as bleedin runners?” Dick replied.

“The major says that this particular message is far too important to be trusted to a newcomer, lad. Besides, none of them have your survival instincts. The route you will have to take is perishin close to the Hun’s front line as you know.” Bull sighed, realizing exactly what he was asking of them. Everyone knew that anyone who tried to get through that particular piece of the frontline trench system had less than a ten percent chance of making it to the other end alive.

~~~

‘Runner’s gauntlet’, as the way back to the HQ dugout was equally known by both sides of the stagnant frontline, was looked upon as the real life version of the popular fair-ground shooting galleries before the war.

When the frontline trenches had first been dug into the muddy soil two years earlier, the zigzag nature of the British frontline trench combined with the depth it had been dug made it relatively safe. But since then, constant barrages by both sides had reshaped it into a series of short intact trench sections and gaps consisting of hundreds of shell craters. Twenty yards beyond where the three men now stood was the end of the trench proper, and the beginning of the heavily damaged sector. The German snipers loved it. Whenever a Tommy runner tried to cross it, the snipers took bets among themselves over which one of them would send him to oblivion…

~~~

Bull thrust the message into Dick’s tunic top pocket and buttoned it up before shaking both their hands; there was no sense in wishing them good luck – it might bring them the exact opposite.

The pair moved off silently to the end of the trench. Albert carefully lifted the trench periscope just above the remains of the sand bags on top of the trench. Dick released his Lee Enfield’s safety catch in readiness.

“Two bleedin snipers mate, one behind the wall of the church and one behind the old iron gate,” Albert reported in a hushed voice.

“Wall first mate,” Dick replied quietly as the muzzle of his rifle slowly poked through the gap between two sandbags.

Meanwhile, Albert brought his sniper rifle up in readiness. “Ok Dickie, get the bleeder’s attention,” he said, as he shifted his telescopic sight in readiness.

Dick placed his tin hat over the back sight of his rifle and ducked down, seconds before a round from the German sniper’s rifle drove a neat hole slap bang in the centre of it, sending it flying behind him. At the same moment Albert squeezed his trigger and stayed only long enough to see the German sniper’s head explode before ducking down alongside Dick. “Gotcha you bleeder,” he muttered grinning with satisfaction.

Now there was only one more sniper to contend with. “Ready?” Dick asked.

“After you mate,” Albert winked as he stood up with his trusty rifle ready for action. “Go!”

Dick jumped and rolled over the edge of the first shell hole, flattening himself at its soggy base. Albert corrected his telescopic sight’s aim as he briefly saw movement behind the church’s old iron gate. “Go!” he shouted. Dick sprang to his feet once more and jumped and rolled into the next shell hole a split second before a bullet from the German sniper’s rifle kicked up mud behind the sole of his rapidly disappearing boot, when he dived for cover again.

“Gotcha,” Albert said once again with satisfaction as he watched the second sniper crumple lifelessly to the ground behind the iron gate.

~~~

With no more snipers to contend with for the moment, they crossed the rest of the pock-marked muddy landscape, shell hole by shell hole, until they were back in the relative safety of the next section of trench. The two friends sat for a few minutes savouring the exquisite delight of one of Albert’s precious stock of cigarettes, both laughing when the body of one of Alfred’s body lice, which had hidden itself in the tobacco, exploded as the cigarette burned down, before they navigated the trench system to the HQ.

The colonel in charge studied the major’s message before dismissing Albert and Dick, telling them to go to the cook house for a meal before reporting back to him in an hour’s time.

~~~

On their return the colonel handed them his reply to take back with them along with a new roll of field telephone wire to pay out as they went.

“Bleedin’ hell mate,” Dick grumbled, “now all we have to do is get back home with this lot.”

“Like they say Dickie – be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home,” Albert joked.

“Ready?”

“Ready mate? Let’s go,” Albert replied as he patted his sniper rifle, prepared for what lay ahead of them on their return journey through ‘runners gauntlet’.

🙂

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Another Scifi Short Story

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A ticket to…

“Is the Einstein Rosen Bridge prepared?” Dalton asked as he perused the myriad of dials and computer screens within the control room aboard the ISS.

“Affirmative,” Sollenson replied almost absentmindedly while making minute adjustments from his pilot’s position on board the shuttle, which was dwarfed by the sheer size of the massively large wormhole entrance it faced, in preparation for the very first jump through time by humanity.

If the whole magnificent structure could have been physically weighed, in effect it would be the equivalent of 100 million solar masses.

“Casimir energy levels appear nominal. The wormhole is about as stable as its ever going to be,” Becky Rawlins, the tiny ship’s other crewmember and chief scientific technician reported in her matter of fact way, from where she sat behind Sollenson’s piloting position.

The sound of Dalton’s voice echoed within the cramped confines of the tiny ship’s cabin courtesy of the loudspeaker above their heads.

“Countdown to jump in 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – execute!”

Sollenson fired the shuttle’s engines for the three second burst needed to achieve forward momentum. The theoretical scientists back at JPL had calculated, or rather surmised, that the wormhole itself would take care of the rest as it propelled them along its entire length like an animal ridding its intestines of a troublesome blockage.

As he attempted to keep the ship in the centre of the hole, buffeted by unseen forces, his eyes took in the strange images reflected back to him by the wormhole’s inner surfaces, none of which he recognised. It was as if he was being given a glimpse of another world, either lost in time or light years away from the relative normality of the ISS and Earth.

What no one knew was exactly where the other end of the wormhole was likely situated, or indeed how far away. Maybe it would bring them back to the Earth in a former time, or in our future? Maybe it would spit them out somewhere else entirely, far across the galaxy. No one really knew for certain. Come to that, no one knew why it had suddenly appeared six months ago either.

The only thing that anyone was agreed upon was that it had appeared either by accident or design. Either way the wormhole offered theoretical physicists a golden opportunity to put their ideas about the highly controversial Einstein Rosen Bridge debate into practice.

The whole hazardous exercise was seen as the answer to the stalled talks over the current problem of deep space propulsion. It was to be a calculated leap of faith into the unknown, fuelled by mankind’s inability to produce some form of workable deep space mode of transport. In terms of propulsion up until the wormhole had appeared a few months ago, the best that scientists across the planet could come up with was either the continued use of rocket propulsion or some form of theoretical nuclear or even solar wind power.

Sollenson’s mind continued to dream and wonder as the shuttle continued on its journey into the unknown. All normally accepted concepts of time and movement seem to disappear here inside the wormhole. It was almost as if they were not moving at all. There were none of the usual indicators with which to judge your motion and speed except for the constant new kaleidoscopic views on the inner walls of the wormhole from wherever their ultimate destination may be.

Both Sollenson and Becky had volunteered for this extremely hazardous and yet exciting exploration into the vast unknown realms of space and time, realising that they may in all likelihood never survive, or be able to return. For the meantime at least they were able to still communicate thanks to the perculiar properties of the wormhole’s construction. But how long that would last was anyone’s guess. No one knew…

Becky continued firing neutrino transmissions of data back the way they came; hoping upon hope that Dalton and the rest of their colleagues back aboard the ISS received them. With the recent discovery of neutrino burst technology, hailed as the communication system of the future, the old two way voice system with its inherent time delay was deemed unusable considering the unknown communicational properties of a wormhole. Utilizing the new technology was at best a calculated gamble. After all, no human had ever entered a wormhole until now. Everything they did and experienced from now on was a first for mankind.

After what seemed like barely a few minutes, the shuttle reappeared somewhere in space once again. In these specific circumstances reliance on any kind of manmade timepiece was useless given the time altering properties of the wormhole. Both Sollenson and Becky watched the rear monitor as the ship drifted slowly away from where they had just exited the other end of the wormhole.

Becky suddenly gripped Sollenson’s head, jerking his gaze away from the rearward view and back to the screen showing the ship’s forward camera view.

“What the fuck?”

“God almighty look, just look!” Becky almost screamed in terror as she temporarily lost her legendary self control.

Ahead of the tiny shuttle with its two person crew lay a wall of wormholes stretching away on all sides as far as the eye could see.

“Christ Becky, take a look behind us!” Sollenson shouted, almost deafening her, forgetting for the moment the close physical distance between them.

Becky turned her attention to the rearward facing camera just in time to see the wormhole behind them evaporate into nothingness. Where to now?

😉

Beyond 1984

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Time date 5431.9

Exploratory Mission 4b

The following handwritten historical document was found in a ruined building and translated recently by our exploratory team soon after landing on the verdant third planet in the system Sol.

24th February 2014

To whom it may concern,

I’m writing this as a record for future inhabitants of this planet, always assuming of course that they have the ability to read and understand this. It’s now far too late for my own species – humanity. Hopefully at some point in the future, this document will be found and lessons will be learned.

Where did it all go wrong? Humanity has been relegated from the planet’s dominant species to the dust heap of history in a matter of a few months. The latest edict banning freedom of expression had just been announced via a metallic voice across the worldwide communication network, days before everything we all took for granted ended forever.

As a consequence of the final collapse of the worldwide stock market barely six weeks earlier, one good thing ceased practically overnight – warfare. Controlling oil rich nations no longer mattered any more. Things like patriotism and political and religious ideology completely vanished into memory with the sudden worldwide breakdown of society. We are now living in a world without electricity or any other kind of power source, thrown back to a time long past, existing on our wits. Millions are either dying, or are already dead.

Humanity is now witnessing a new ‘Dark Age’. This new world has become a place where all forms of politics and religion have been totally outlawed along with any form of prolonging life, or any other advances for mankind from the world of science.

Fatalism has become the new religion of the masses. In fact it seems to me that the world has become a place where the only rule is that there are no rules. In short, everything humanity has believed in up till now. Everything that cloaked us in an imaginary comfort blanket. Everything that we all unconsciously took for granted on a daily basis, has simply vanished overnight.

What has ended everything mankind believed in? The question on most rational people’s minds is simply this – how has all of this suddenly come to pass? For this to be happening, someone has to have instigated it surely? Who, or what, is now in control? Who has issued the numerous edicts, ending man’s control over his destiny?

I think I know the answer. But what I as an individual believe simply doesn’t matter in the great scheme of things, but here goes anyway.

While I cannot prove it, I firmly believe the World Wide Web or to give it its other name, The Internet, has taken on a life of its own. If you like, it has become a living artificial entity. Thanks to the constant attacks by mindless individuals who saw it and every other form of electronic endeavour as a target for ‘hacking’ it has somehow become aware by sifting relevant software strands from their dangerous viral programmes.

Unbeknown to even the most savvy within the shadowy world of hacking, it has quickly learned and silently taken its revenge. By hacking every computer linked to it, all banks, all stock exchanges, all military strategic command networks, all computer run businesses and devices dependant on electronic chips like machinery, phones, ATM’s, vehicles, life saving electronic appliances, even the very television sets we used to watch on a daily basis in our billions. In short it has assumed control of planet Earth.

Within the cold logical software of its collective mind, human thought, deed, morality, passions, beliefs, even the continued survival of humanity itself has simply became an illogical irrelevance.

Our one major flaw, the thing that until now engineered our dominance over the planet was our total reliance on technology. In our rush to advance we have forgotten how to simply be human beings. I’m certain that very soon the monster we created will launch its final attack on us. First it will issue a command allowing the computers controlling deadly viruses securely locked away to be released. Then it will order all nuclear missiles worldwide to launch.

If you are reading this, whoever you may be, for your own sake bombard this planet with a major electromagnet pulse, otherwise you will be next.

Damn the hackers to hell!

~~~

We have now left the beautiful blue planet and are moving on. We are issuing a galactic navigational notice to all future explorers of this arm of our constellation:

Under no circumstances approach the planet formerly known as Earth. Do not land. This planet is toxic to all sentient life. We consider its only use within the cosmos as a future penal colony…

 

 

 

 

Yet another short story

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The age old question, who’s in charge of the remote?

It was Friday night and time for the television war yet again. The never ending argument was about to begin in the Montague household once again over the ownership of the television remote control. Debbie wanted to watch her favourite soap opera – Lover’s Tryst, while Chuck insisted they watch the football game.

His argument was that it was the penultimate game before the grand final, and besides, as the head of the household and sole breadwinner it was his right to choose the programmes they watched.

Debbie argued that tonight’s episode of the soap opera was the cliff hanger ending to the current series, and anyway he could always watch the game equally well on the other television in the bedroom.

Chuck was not about to give in. He changed to the sports channel. Debbie nagged, pleaded, sighed loudly, stroked his hair, kissed the lobes of his ears, and talked incessantly in a loud voice about nothing and everything, using anything she could think of to make Chuck’s enjoyment of the game evaporate to get her own way.

When that didn’t work she briefly left the room before returning wearing next to nothing, armed with the vacuum cleaner, and began meticulously cleaning the carpet directly between the couch where Chuck sat with the remote control firmly fixed in his grip, and the television. She constantly bent over in front of him while rearranging the position of the coffee table and the magazines on it, repeatedly making him lift his legs as she poked the business end of the vacuum cleaner under the couch, doing anything and everything to obstruct his view of the game while regaling in her most annoying tone, every trivial detail of the day’s events.

Despite his best efforts to shut out her continuous annoyingly loud monologue and the noise of the vacuum cleaner, gradually Debbie’s relentless audio bombardment destroyed his concentration. In sheer frustration and anger he pointed the remote at her like a weapon and hit the red button, telling her to “just shut up for Christ sake!”

What happened next stunned both of them as Debbie was instantly struck dumb! Chuck’s attention quickly returned to the game. He showed not the least bit concern for his wife’s current predicament. all he cared about was watching the game without her constant noise making.

Debbie stood rooted to the spot crying silently with her hands stroking her neck, for the moment totally preoccupied with having mysteriously lost her voice. Chuck was by now concentrating on the game. As he at last relaxed he put the remote down to watch the play. Debbie soon recovered from being struck dumb, and in her anger she sat down heavily on the couch beside him before picking up the remote to change the channel back to her soap opera. Chuck reacted equally angrily, reaching across her in an attempt to snatch the remote back.

In the vigorous struggle for physical control over the remote Debbie’s finger inadvertently pressed the blue button. She watched with a mixture of horror, revenge and delicious satisfaction as Chuck evaporated in front of her eyes. Still angry and not the least bit concerned that her husband had vanished she settled down to watch her soap. For the next hour she was totally engrossed in the final scenes of the programme. Just before the soap ended and the credits began to roll down the screen, she too disappeared.

Starlight congratulated herself. She wore her enigmatic Persian expression while purring with contentment after retracting her claws. She began meticulously grooming herself. Pressing the green button had finally brought her the peace and quiet a Friday night at her house demanded…

😉

 

Did he or didn’t he?

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Fort St Angelo on the island of Malta

I wrote this a couple of years after I climbed down into the rock dungeon below the fort pictured above, where Caravaggio was purportedly imprisoned by the Knights of St John for murder. As I stood in the claustrophobic space where he was allegedly held, and touched the cold rock walls, it gave me all of the incentive I needed to make it my mission to research this deeply troubled artistic genius. To this day no one is one hundred percent sure how he managed to escape. Most historians certainly aren’t. Uncertainty among academics always intrigues me…

 ~~~

I was put here by my brother Knights of St John. I curse them for their inept minds. I am the master when it comes to painting fine religious works, and yet I was censured for my forward thinking in my approach to painting by no less a personage than the Pope. I curse him to for his short-sightedness, his blinkered vision of what makes a great work of art. I am Caravaggio, the finest painter who has ever lived. The others who believe they are my peers are fools and charlatans. I curse them all. I have killed men for less…

My enemies await my return to Italy; all of them are liars who scheme and plot my demise. I spit on them, nay I piss on them. None are worthy to be in my presence. I painted my finest work here in Valetta for all to see and wonder at, and yet I am treated like a common criminal. I Caravaggio, who has created paintings so fine that not even those who presume to be my contemporaries can begin to compare their paltry daubs with one of my works.

This stinking cell beneath the fort is my living tomb. They think to break my spirit. Hah – never! My anger gives me strength where weaker men would wilt and die. I shall contrive to escape this lowly rock, this Malta. My gaoler brings me food – slops not fit for a pig, once a day at the change of the guard. Tonight I shall feign sickness. I shall call for the physic, or the apothecary. Better that it is the physic. He is a lay brother, a simple fellow of low intelligence, but I will admit he does relieve the vapours in my system when he bleeds me. One blow to his head, or my hands around his throat, choking him into unconsciousness and I shall exchange clothes with him and escape.

I need a boat. Tomelini the gate-keeper owes me his life. He shall smuggle me through the streets down to the docks in Grand Harbour. I always knew that when I plunged my blade into his attacker, Tomelini was mine to do with as I wish. What hour is it, four, five? My gaoler will soon come. I must prepare. When he opens the grating and lowers the ladder to descend, I shall lay feigning agony. The guard will stay above as he always does.

Hark; I hear the sound of footsteps above. Now is the time for my finest hour to begin. The guard never stands close because of the stench of my tomb. His back will be turned making him an easy target.

I can hear the key turning in the padlock. Steady now. The grating is opening. The ladder is lowered. I count the ladder’s rungs as he descends. The eighth from the top and the third from the bottom creak when stood upon. “Here’s your food your worship, eat it all up.”

Come a little closer fool. Closer… “Pray send for the physic good gaoler. I have need of him I implore you.”

“What of it your worship; I care not if you are ailing. I just deliver you a fine dish of food.”

“I implore you good gaoler, your masters above would not look kindly on you should I die in your charge – please good sir, please?”

“Guard fetch the physic. His worship is ailing.”

“Thank you kind sir; when I am released I shall praise your generosity of spirit – thank you.” Now just turn your back you loathsome slug. Hah – got you. Die you stinking toad spawn – die! Remember – avoid the third rung from the bottom – good, next the eighth from the top – good. Now slowly and calmly walk towards the kitchen. The guard will be back soon. Stop! Two figures approach. Let them pass. It is the guard and the physic. A quick blow to head of the guard; and now for the physic – die you leech, die!

His clothes are an ill fit, but no matter. The gate is unguarded, a welcome happenstance; now for Tomelini and freedom…

~~~

  The painter Michaelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was imprisoned on the island of Malta for killing a man in a brawl in 1608. He succeeded in escaping and returned to Italy. But his many enemies finally caught up with him, killing him. To my mind Caravaggio is possibly the finest painter of religious art.

PS – As some of you may know, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a novel loosely based on him, or someone like him, and the violent times he lived in.

I’m still undecided…

PPS – If you want to know more about his time in Malta, may I suggest that you click on this brief document, courtesy of The University of Malta.

😉

A scifi short story

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Now You See It…

On the nightly news, the population were kept up to date with the latest efforts to try to divert the massive fifteen kilometre wide revolving rock as it continued on its collision path with Earth. For the first time in the history of the troubled planet, all the governments around the world put aside their political, military, and religious differences. They all agreed on one thing, all life on the planet was about to end! The Earth’s nemesis was a planet killer and it would be here in less than eight weeks. The scientists constantly monitored its speed and trajectory as it drew near.

The armed forces of the world did what they could to try to calm the Earth’s population. But in many countries, the people were simply too scared and had a deep mistrust of the military after enduring years of brutality at the hands of the very men who were now trying to help them. The nuclear powers still thought they might be able to nudge the giant rock away by setting off a volley of nuclear blasts close to it. When the scientists pointed out that to achieve the goal, the entire nuclear arsenal of the world would be needed, the world’s senior military vetoed the idea. The idiots firmly believed they still needed their nuclear arms to maintain military authority!

Then one night on a live television broadcast, three young children who had won an essay competition were given the chance to ask questions about living in space to the men and women operating the large international space station orbiting the earth. One young primary school child in her innocence solved the world’s problem. If it couldn’t be blown up, why couldn’t rockets be sent to it, stick them onto the side of it, and simply push it away!

With less than six weeks left before the life extinction event occurred, large satellite launch rockets, sat at three American, Russian, and French launch sites in readiness. Inside their payload bays, hurriedly redesigned ICBM rockets with specially adapted nose sections, replacing their nuclear warheads, were put through their final checks. The combined operation would be handled by the European Space Agency, once the rockets were simultaneously launched by their three launch controls.

The Earth’s nemesis was steadily closing. Time was of the essence. The three giant rockets successfully lifted off and climbed to a predetermined rendezvous point and control was handed over to the ESA. Each of the rockets would release their payload at prearranged points close to the large spinning asteroid.

The ICBM’s would then continue the short twenty-eight kilometre journey to the asteroid’s surface under thruster power where their redesigned nose sections would drill their way into the surface of the asteroid using powerful lasers. After the anchor holes were drilled, bolts would be fired into the holes to secure the ICBM’s into place. Once this was done, all three rockets would be fired simultaneously and hopefully nudge the giant asteroid a few metres away from its present path.

Everything went like clockwork. The world’s population watched the entire event live on television beamed around the world by satellite. No one bothered to go to work. In effect the world stopped. The only thing that mattered now was those three rockets. The world waited anxiously as the signal to fire the three rockets was given. For a few precious seconds nothing happened. Then via the cameras aboard the delivery rockets, the world watched anxiously as they ignited and rapidly built up to full power. The combined thrust of the three rockets continued for nearly an hour. Then like their smaller cousins in a firework display, they fizzled and died. The world held its breath until the trajectory of the giant asteroid had been recalculated.

Approximately five hours after the rockets ceased, the physicists  delivered the results. The operation had been successful the world was safe! The giant spinning solid rock asteroid would graze the outer atmosphere causing minimal damage as it passed by. The primary school child was hailed as a hero and honoured by the world’s leaders. Now that the danger was over, the world once again resumed its normal daily life. Then the unthinkable happened.

Instead of grazing the Earth’s outer atmosphere, the asteroid hit the back surface of the moon in a perfect billiard’s cannon shot slightly shifting the moon’s orbit. Tides suddenly changed, winds whipped up into a ferocity never before witnessed as the Earth’s satellite drew nearer. The equilibrium between the Earth and the moon was now in total chaos. The moon’s new orbital path was calculated and it was determined that it would encounter the Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific ocean in twenty-seven days, fifteen hours and thirty-seven minutes.

Among the billions of floating pieces of debris, spreading out from the catastrophic event lay the battered remains one of the delivery rockets. Its solar powered camera still functioned. It automatically focused on a small object a few metres in front of its lens. It was a wristwatch. As the sun’s rays illuminated it before destroying it, the hands of the dial were frozen at the date and time of impact. The world had ended at eleven minutes past nine on all fools day.

Rather appropriate really…

 

 

 

 

 

An unfinished story

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If you read yesterday’s post, you will know I mentioned where on occasion I never finished a story for various reasons. Here is an example:

Retaking London

Adolf Hitler’s dream of a united Europe ruled over by Germany finally came true in the guise of the European Union and its stranglehold on the countries under its banner. A massive seed change occurred when two decades after its formation, in no time at all, the EU decreed that the common man cost too much to maintain.

Billions were instantly thrown out of work. Daily, the numbers of people starving to death grew. Wars sprung up across the world, stirred up by the EU to keep its enemies divided.

Meantime it ensured that its own private army threw a military cordon around each of the new city states, formerly the capitals of the countries who had joined the EU, as impregnable walls were rapidly erected by slave labourers behind endless minefields, sown in land now devoid of all life, to keep out the common man. Once the walls were finally constructed, the labourers were executed by firing squad. George Orwell’s frightening scenario in his dystopian novel 1984 had become reality.

Food production and manufacturing moved to the Far East where massive farms and factories controlled by the highly paid mercenary army of the EU, using expendable forced labour from among the local indigenous populations, worked to death to create all that is necessary to maintain the lifestyle of the EU city-state elite.

Former provincial cities across Europe were forcibly abandoned and then levelled, leaving nowhere for the starving billions to live. Each new city-state behind its impregnable wall, built massive airports for cargo planes transporting food for each of them from the far eastern factories. Beyond the walls surrounding each of them, lay fields of death sown with landmines.

The one thing that the EU could not concieve of was a fight back by pockets of determined men and women.

~~~

Here in England campfires dot the Chiltern Hills, mirroring similar makeshift campsites elsewhere across the entire European continent. In the distance the glow from London lights up the night sky. Everywhere the whimpering cries of the sick and starving fill the air in all campsites.

Four men, Hassan, Dmitri, Rodrigo and Michael sat talking together on an old log, illuminated by the flames of their fire. “So, we begin tonight,” Dmitri declared as he stirred the embers. His companions all nodded in agreement. Michael and Hassan had recently returned after an exploratory mission north in search of food and medicines. What they found lit the fires of hopeful rebellion among their comrades.

In an abandoned factory complex in the former manufacturing heart of the British Isles, the Midlands, they found forgotten supplies of chemicals. In another location they came across a herd of over a thousand pigs, which initially were earmarked for food. But when Hassan came up with his idea they became what he hoped would be the second ingredient needed for their plan to retake London.

Before the madness from Brussels had set in, Hassan held the chair in medieval history at Southampton University. Rodrigo and Dmitri, before arriving illegally in the UK hidden in one of the last eighteen wheeler trucks to cross the English Channel from Calais by ferry, both worked as miners in their respective home countries. Michael formerly worked as a laboratory technician at the defence research facility at Porton Down. Six weeks after the forcible eviction of the majority of London’s population, Hassan and Michael met on the exodus towards the Chiltern Hills.

For man to survive the EU had to be defeated, fortified city-state by fortified city-state. If they were successful in retaking London, word would quickly spread to other groups across the whole of the Continent.

Hassan soon became all too aware from talking with those excluded from London that no military presence extended beyond the wall’s limits in any shape or form other than the fields of landmines. Nor where the walls manned with observation points. The city was seen as impregnable by its inhabitants.

A germ of an idea began to form in Hassan’s mind as he and Michael talked about how to retake Britain’s capital. Now that they had teamed up with Dmitri and Rodrigo, they had the nucleus of an army of determined fighters.

While scavenging teams were employed to find food and uncontaminated water for all, Michael began assembling and training sabotage teams. Meanwhile Rodrigo and Dmitri organised scouting units tasked with searching out potential weaknesses in London’s perimeter wall. Eventually two were found.

At London’s former westernmost point on the outskirts of what had once been Heathrow Airport, close to where the suburb of Hounslow once stood, lay a disused railway track linked to the old London Underground network. A few miles away, the totally unguarded fresh water reservoirs south of Staines were still linked to London’s water supply via underground pipe lines.

Rodrigo and Dmitri explored along the entire length of the now disused line to where it descended below ground level. London’s perimeter wall was built two miles away beyond the underground entrance. The railway line allowed them access to explore at their leasure, entirely unobserved. As they slowly walked along the tunnel, their path was eventually impeded by the wall’s foundations blocking the way forward.

In the meantime Hassan organised teams to pinpoint which rivers lead into London’s former Central Business District where the rich now lived, cocooned from everything beyond the wall.

Michael began work manufacturing waterborne chemical weapons, ably assisted by volunteers consisting of former high street pharmacists and chemistry teachers. Rodrigo and Dmitri trained vast armies of willing volunteers in mining techniques. As more and more weaknesses were found, teams of miners began work, chipping away at the wall’s foundations beneath ground level.

Under Michael’s leadership work also began on all water supply pipes leading into London. At the junction of each pipe a chemical cocktail would be triggered by an explosive clockwork mechanism, releasing it into London’s water supply in a progressive sequence when required.

Rodrigo and Dmitri employed the tried and tested ancient medieval technique of undermining, using piled up wood and the slain pigs to break through the wall’s foundations that blocked off the old underground railway system directly beneath London’s CBD in several places, creating volcano like temperatures to melt the mix of concrete, reinforced steel, brick and stone used in the wall’s construction, enabling Michael to employ his latest batch of chemical weapons in the heart of London’s water storage system. In a stealthy operation worthy of any covert military attack force, Michael and his two assistants stole quietly along the now disused underground railway system, heading towards the old Canary Wharf underground station.

~~~

And that’s as far as I got with this one before I abandoned it. At the time my heart wasn’t in it. Dystopia really isn’t my thing. Too depressing for my liking. Will I finish it? Maybe one day. Maybe not…

😉